Mass Effect: Andromeda is shaking things up. New galaxy, new class system, and most importantly for a BioWare RPG, a new conversation system that determines your character development through dialogue choices.
The old binary system of Paragon/Renegade from the previous games in the series has been ditched. And good riddance, I say. In its place, #Andromeda uses a 'tone choice' mechanic designed to allow the player to craft a much deeper and more nuanced personality for their player character, Ryder.
Here's how it works:
'Mass Effect Andromeda' Dialogue Wheel: The Four Flavors Of You
BioWare's new 'tone system' revolves around four possible choices in conversations:
- Emotional (heart icon): This option usually indicates a sympathetic, understanding, kind answer from Ryder, but it can also be used to play an impulsive or hot-headed character, depending on the situation.
- Logical (gear icon): Assess the situation dispassionately, using the facts as your disposal. You might end up hurting some people's feelings along the way, though.
- Casual (round spiral icon): For the Ryder who likes to hang loose, crack jokes and deal out the occasional sarcastic quip. Can endear you to some characters, but more reserved individuals will bristle at your flippancy.
- Professional (square spiral icon): Strictly business. For the professional-minded Ryder, it's hip to be square.
The above image is from an early scene aboard the Hyperion in which Dr. Lexi T'Perro and Ryder discuss the Welcome Video that is being broadcast to the colonists. Here's how the exchange can play out, depending on whether you choose to skew casual or professional:
In contrast to the Paragon/Renegade system of the past, there's not much in the way of moral judgement with these tone options. It's less about being good or bad and more about developing Ryder's personality traits in a more realistic way.
Some conversations will offer all of the different choices at some point in the chain, others only allow for two. Over the course of the game your choices will begin to coalesce into a distinctive personality that affects how NPCs react to you.
A cool, calm, professional Ryder will make a different impression than a hot-headed, wise-cracking one. But given the somewhat iffy animations of your friends' faces, many players may find it hard to stay serious.
Some characters will warm more quickly to some attitudes than others, and you'll want to pay particular attention to the personality of your crush in order to develop a romance. So far though, it seems perfectly possible to ruffle someone's feathers but still maintain their respect and win them over.
But the important thing about the new system is that you shouldn't feel too locked-in by your early choices. The game does keep track of your attitudes in conversation, but it's not going to block off important decisions in the late game because of them.
The Game Keeps Score, But Won't Punish You For Personality
In previous Mass Effect games, players were encouraged to lean heavily into either the Paragon or Renegade path. Consistent play could unlock options and resolutions later in the game that would be unavailable to Shepards that attempted to strike a middle ground, or vary their attitudes according to circumstances.
That won't be an issue in Andromeda. BioWare have confirmed that players will be encouraged to have more realistic and complex personalities. If you've been joking around for a while and you decide you want to get serious, there won't be any penalties for that. Players will be encouraged to react to the situation with what feels right according to their role-playing goals.
That doesn't mean that conversation choices won't have consequences, however. In Andromeda's codex, there's an entry called 'The Journey So Far' that tracks your Ryder's particular experience in the story—important decisions, relationships formed, etc. It also contains a 'psych profile', which is gradually formed as the game tracks your different dialogue options.
This psych profile is mainly there as a tracker to provide information to the player about how their character's personality is turning out. What won't happen, however, is certain outcomes being 'gated', unlocking only with certain amount of points in casual or professional, for example. You're free to choose the dialogues you want without the pressure to 'build' personality points in advance for a story outcome in the future.
Psyche yourself up to make friends and influence people with the Mass Effect: Andromeda launch trailer:
All in all the new method seems much more conductive to roleplaying than the previous Paragon/Renegade mechanic, which always felt geared towards gaming the personality system.
Although I welcome the freedom to play my Ryder as a well-rounded human being instead of a one-note character, the idea of extreme personality runs are also kind of appealing. Anyone else feel like they want to Spock it up by going 100% logical/professional?
What do you think? Is BioWare's new system an improvement on previous Mass Effect games?